The Spirit and the Truth of the Gospel- John 16:1-15
THE SPIRIT AND TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
490TH CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION OF THE 16TH CENTURY
JOHN 16:1-15/REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS
This passage in John is the last of Jesus' recorded words to his disciples, and therefore they are extremely important to remember. The Apostles are filled with sadness because Jesus is going away from them, but Jesus is encouraging them to rejoice in the Helper (or â€œComforterâ€) the Spirit of Truth who will come and teach them and make Christ known in a better and fuller way than they have experienced with Jesus while living with him in the flesh!
Even though Jesus is leaving his Apostles to die, to be resurrected and ascended to Godâ€™s right hand, he will send the Holy Spirit, or the â€œComforterâ€ to them to do two important things:
1) The Spirit of Truth, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity will guide them into all truth (v. 13). Implication: There will be objective Truth from God concerning the Christian doctrine (theology) and life.
2) He will glorify Christ by taking from what is his and declare it to them (v. 14). Implication: Christ and His Gospel will be the focus of the Holy Spiritâ€™s ministry.
ESV John 16:1 "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
In the context of John 16, there are two levels here to understand: There is first a priority on Jesusâ€™ words to his special 12 Apostles, then there is an application to all the Church through their writings that is founded on once and for all faith delivered to the Apostles and Prophets through the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:20). Jesus is first addressing his Apostles when he says that they will be led into all truth, etc. but the implication is that this is for all of Church founded upon them.
What does Jesus mean that the Holy Spirit will guide the Apostles, and then through them the Church into all truth? There are perhaps many implications and applications here we could discuss, but his primary meaning has to do with Holy Scripture.
The New Testament was not written at this time, and Jesus is saying that the New Testament will complete Godâ€™s Story found in the Bible. The Story of God that began in the Old Covenant will come to conclusion through the writings of the Apostles- -and the end of the story that some cannot fully bear at this time will be communicated- -specifically the significance of the life, death, resurrection and ascension.
Jesus has promised that the Bible we have is complete and is all about the salvation found in Christ alone. Jesus is the end of the Old Covenant story as he teaches in Luke 24:24-27:
And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Today marks the 490th Anniversary of the Reformation of the 16th century. Many churches today celebrate â€œReformation Dayâ€ for it was on this day, October 31st 1517 that God began to make known through a man named Martin Luther that Scripture must be the Christianâ€™s only infallible rule of faith and life.
Now I realize that some churches do not know of this celebration, some might not desire to remember the Reformation, some might find this to be boring, some find it odd, some think this might glorify mere historical events, some might be too busy trick-or-treating, and some have no opinion about it all.
But it is important to point out that the Reformation was a return after many years to an appreciation of the Word of God, or the Scriptures alone as the sole and infallible rule for faith and life. In the Medieval times where the Churchâ€™s tradition and mere opinions of men were believed more than Scripture, Martin Luther was used by God to bring the Church back to an appreciation of Scripture alone.
The doctrine of Scripture alone does not reject good tradition or faithful teachers in Church History who teach and line up with Scripture, but Scripture alone stresses the importance of testing all beliefs and habits of the Christianâ€™s life and worship as to whether they are Scriptural or not.
The Reformation was a return to an understanding and appreciation that Jesus did not leave the Apostles or the Church without objective truth, but that he sent his Spirit to lead them into all truth to give us an inspired, infallible text that teaches us about God, Christ, and how we live, serve and worship as Christians.
Jesus is saying here that when the Holy Spirit comes (climatically on the Day of Pentecost) that he will lead the Apostles into all truth and they will write the Word that will:
â€¦will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
We should never underestimate the power of the Word of God, and we should be careful to always test all theology and Christian practices by the Word of God. We should be reminded of the Apostle Paulâ€™s warning and admonition to his son in the faith Timothy when he wrote in his Second Epistle to Timothy:
ESV 2 Timothy 4:1-5: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
In light of our text from John today, Paul is saying that although the Scriptures are the main way the Holy Spirit speaks to the Church, and through the preaching of the Word changes people through reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, there will come a time when the Holy Spirit will not be very interesting. There will come a time when sinful man will like rather to hear myths than truth.
When some people hear the word â€œReformed Christianâ€ they think different things, but the essential understanding of the designation of â€œReformed Christianâ€ has been historically, and still is for those who understand that they believe in reforming doctrine or beliefs and habits continually according to Godâ€™s Word (A phrase of the Reformation was â€œReformed, and Always Reforming according to Scripture).
Christians should not merely give the Bible lip service, saying that they believe it is the very word of God, and not preaching it, and teaching it as if it was. The Holy Spirit leads his people into all truth through the Bible. God has truly given us everything we need for life and godliness in the Holy Scriptures! (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Do you test your own pet doctrines by Holy Scripture? Do you seek to hear the very voice of the Holy Spirit in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God? What if you find your beliefs (or the beliefs of those you love) out of line with Scripture in error? Are you willing to reject them and submit yourself to the Holy Spirit speaking in and through Scripture, and thus come to a greater knowledge of the truth? Jesus has promised not only to lead the Apostles into all truth, but also his Church founded on the once and for all faith of the Apostles found in Holy Scripture.
This is the importance of returning today to a doctrine of Scripture alone. Scripture alone objectively testifies that we believe in the Holy Spirit and his powerful truth!
The second important thing Jesus says first to his disciples, and then to His Church is that the Holy Spirit will take from what belongs to Christ and make it known to them (vv. 14-15). The implication here is that the Holy Spiritâ€™s ministry is Christ-centered and makes the Gospel of Jesus known to all who have ears to hear!
These things that the Spirit will take from Christ and make known could be a lot of blessed things that Christians have access to through the Spirit, such as assurance of salvation, the death of Christ for sinners, the significance of the resurrection, the adoption of believers in Christ, and the Last Day Judgment and Blessed resurrection of the saints.
But what Jesus primarily communicated in his earthly ministry, and what he is promising the Apostles, and through them the Church, is that the Holy Spirit will make known to them the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will take from the Resurrected-Ascended Christ the Gospel message that â€œIt is finishedâ€ and that the righteousness that God requires of us - -God has supplied in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ!
Do you believe this gospel?
In the time of Jesusâ€™ ministry many of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law opposed Jesus vehemently because he disagreed with their teaching of salvation by cooperation with Godâ€™s grace. Essentially, the Pharisees taught that man could cooperate with God within the covenant, and eventually do enough good works to merit their salvation and hope before God (In fact, Jesus teaches in John 16:1-3 that as they killed Jesus for his message of gospel grace from the Father, so they will also persecute and kill the apostles because they have not known the Gospel of Jesus).
Jesus taught during his earthly ministry that God required perfection (Matthew 5:48) so that those who had ears to hear would come to the end of their self-righteousness and repent and find their only hope of righteousness in his meritâ€”in his work for them, received by faith.
During the Medieval period, again the Pharisaical doctrine of cooperating within the visible Church in order to work enough to attain enough merits to achieve a righteousness before God was taught and believed by many and it eclipsed the true and saving Gospel of Jesus.
When God called Martin Luther, he was a struggling monk who was attempting to achieve this righteousness that God required of him; he was trying to cooperate by faith with Godâ€™s grace in order to be saved. However, he realized because of the depth of his sins and that because God required perfection, his only hope was no hope at all â€“but damnation. He struggled with his works before God, realizing they were not always done with right motives and pure faith.
Luther had a friend and Father-Confessor within the Augustinian cloister by the name of John Staupitz that shared the Gospel with Martin Luther (this shows that the gospel was still alive and well in certain places within the Roman Catholic Church):
â€œWhy do you torment yourself with all these speculations and these high thoughts of your works before God? Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood that he has shed for you: it is there that the grace of God will appear to you.
Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself in your Redeemerâ€™s arms. Trust in him- - in the righteousness and merits of his life- -in the atonement of his death. Do not shrink back; God is not angry with you, it is you who are angry with God.
Listen to the Son of God not your own thoughts; meditate on His Word to you. Jesus became man to give you the assurance of divine favor. He says to you: You are my sheep; you hear my voice; no man shall pluck you out of my strong hand.â€ â€“John Staupitz to Martin Luther, ca.1509.
This is the gospel of grace that Jesus says that Holy Spirit will take from Christ and make known to his Apostles and to the Church through them.
We must be reminded that as sinners, even Christians, who are sinners saved by grace, there will always be a temptation to earn our salvation before God- -to merely try harder- -and work harder, hoping that God will forgive us and give us a right standing before him.
But the Gospel of Grace humbles sinners: the Truth of the Holy Spirit when it convicts sinners is that you cannot keep Godâ€™s law, and even your best works and efforts before God are tainted with sin. The Holy Spirit that takes from Christ and makes it known to us teaches us in the Scriptures the heart of the Gospel which is justification by faith alone.
The Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture tells us that the righteousness that God requires- -God supplies - -not from within us, or from our works, or our best cooperation with God, but our righteousness is found in the righteousness and merits of Christ alone!
We are justified or declared righteous before God because of Christâ€™s merits given to us! In Christ, all who believe find a strong Savior and assurance of Godâ€™s love. In Christ, we stand declared righteous based not on our own works for God, but upon Christâ€™s works for God - -and for those who believe. Christâ€™s perfection is given to us, and our sins are placed on him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul that formerly frightened and exasperated Martin Luther until he heard the Holy Spirit (â€œthe Comforterâ€) speaking words of hope through the Gospel:
ESV Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
The Apostle Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believesâ€¦! In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, or from our first step of faith until our last step of faith into the arms of our loving Savior.
But this doctrine of justification by faith alone, where Godâ€™s righteousness is imputed by faith alone to the believer is once again eclipsed in our time. As long as there is a problem of sin, there will be a problem with our understanding of Godâ€™s grace and our ability to faithfully pass the true Gospel of grace down to the next generation.
Remember in Galatians 1:6, the Apostle Paul is astonished (amazed, flabbergasted) that the Galatian Churches who had rejoiced in the gospel of Jesus Christ, were so quickly turning from the God who had called them in the grace of Christ to a different Gospel that was no gospel at all!
We too have this problem. Think about it: We go from one extreme to the other on the spectrum of our assurance of salvation before God. On the one extreme we think ourselves more highly than we ought; we think we have obtained a greater righteousness with our cooperation with God more so than others, and so we judge them for being so â€œcarnalâ€ and lazy, and we are not humbled by Godâ€™s grace to us as we should be.
On the other end of the spectrum, we despair of our sins before God as Martin Luther did in the 16th century. We oftentimes think that God is like us and that when we sin against him he will not forgive us â€œthis timeâ€- -and so we despair!
Both of these two ends of the spectrum lead us away from Christ who is the center of biblical revelation, and points us to our own works righteousness; whether we think we have righteously arrived, or that we loathe ourselves and think God will never forgive us this time, we are looking to SELF and not CHRIST.
Yet in John 16, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will take the knowledge of Christ, and especially his righteousness and make it known to all who believe.
The gospel is for Christians, too! We must cease our striving for God in order that we might attain a right standing before him! We must start believing that Christ has achieved all the righteousness before God that we will ever need - -perfection for us- -in his life, death, resurrection and ascension.
Allowing this to penetrate our hearts as the Holy Spirit works within us, causes us to love and serve God and man not out of mere duty or servile fear- -but because of gratitude stimulated by His grace!
Let us rejoice and never forget that Jesus did indeed send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and to the Church. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead his people, his Church into all truth through the Scriptures, as well as to take the knowledge of Christâ€™s Gospel and hope found in him and make it known to all who believe!
When you talk about believing in the power of the Holy Spirit, remember this text from John 16 (the very words of Jesus!) and remind yourself that the power of the Holy Spirit is not found merely in feelings or emotions within yourself; rather, the power of the Holy Spirit is found in the powerful Word of God given to teach and instruct Godâ€™s people into all truth, and to cause us to live as if the Gospel of Jesus Christ were true.
If you say that you are full of the Spirit and you are relying on your own works before God, you are not full of the Spirit; you are really full of yourself. If you are full of the Spirit, you are full of Christ and His Gospel, and you will declare on this 490th Anniversary of the Reformation with the Apostle Paul and Luther:
ESV Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.